It is said, that you can never conquer your fears, no matter how many wars you win. The vibe was
full of mixed emotions brewing at the breakfast buffet this morning. You could see riders walk
around in a daze, yes they had surpassed their biggest fear – Kalahatti but they had more mountains
Case in point Ketaki Sathe, a communications professional from Mumbai. She is a marathoner,
triathlete, mom to two teenagers. If you meet her you’ll see she doesn’t look a year more than 25.
She uses an inhaler from time to time to fight her allergies but that clearly doesn’t stop her from
being one of the rare few elite women riders of the country. She aced Kalahatti yesterday but was
overheard chatting with the Queen of Kalahatti about not being able to do it in her desired time
limit. “Don’t let that fear define you,” said Katja to her. Clearly everyone was in a world of their own,
where the only challenger was their mind.
It also goes to show that the riders are just human, elite in their chosen sport, but still just human.
Deepak and Abhirami, a couple from Bangalore, for example, relieved to move on to more were
chatting about pending chores back home. “Ayyo I still have to order that hoverboard I promised
baba for Christmas. Hope the model he wants is still in stock at his favourite store.”
And then there’s the epic story of Dr.Avnish from Pune. This 58 year old doctor has been riding with
his friends Dr.Avanti, Dr.Abhishek and Dr.Fadnis across the globe for years. And for them, TfN has
become a yearly pilgrimage. Would you believe if I told you that just six months after his last
accident, when doctors had given him standing instructions to keep away from rides for at least a
year, he took out his bike and got on to the TfN bandwagon? While sitting around at the hotel over a
hot cuppa, his friends liked that TfN, and Kalahatti especially was his recovery ride!
Not just riders, but volunteers and partners too have stuck with the core team over the years. At
least one-third of the volunteers have been associated with the tour for anywhere between 3 to 10
years consistently. That’s why it is called the TfN family. Over the years, we’ve seen volunteers with
absolutely no knowledge of cycling turn into pro riders and compete at the national level too. Case
in point is Kiran Kumar Raju. He volunteered with TfN in the year 2010 and was part of the super
hard-working marking crew. By the next year, he expressed his interest to become a racer rider and
participated in his first tour in 2011. He was working at the time in a sector that did not win his heart
and decided after a few years to quit the corporate life and focus on being a pro cyclist. There was
no looking back from there. And now, after eight years of hard work, he is the reigning champion of
the National level MTB Challenge. He hopes to become the number one racer at the Asia level by
So many such stories of finding a new passion, of making friends for life and of conquering personal
fears are what makes the Tour of Nilgiris such a coveted one to participate in. And on a rest day like
today, one can overhear so many such stories of part tours, wins and challenges shared by
volunteers, organisers and riders.
So while some riders chatted about the tours gone by, others fussed over their bikes, set out for a
spin around Ooty, head out shopping and sightseeing or just rest and recuperate, availing services
offered at the lovely Highland Hotel Accord.
But all this not before we celebrated the winners of yesterday’s epic challenge. Kiran Kumar Raju
won the King of Kalahatti by setting a new record of completing it in 1h 7min 36sec followed by Katja-Lill
Jensen who won the jersey for the Queen of Kalahatti. Paul Stuart Wright from the Veterans and Kris Guns from the Masters category bagged the coveted orange jersey. Celebrations continued with cutting a huge pineapple cake and a mad photo session with all riders, volunteers and organisers.
Important to mention here how Dr.Dhananjey from Spectrum Physio and his crew, made it an epic
night for all the hard work that the volunteers put in yesterday. Day 4 was the longest day for
volunteers starting as early as 3 am and ending work as late as 1pm. So Dr.Dhananjey made it all
worth their while, the tradition of hosting a party for all volunteers post Kalahatti continued in his
room last night. And what a crazy night it was! Like they say, what happens at TfN, stays at TfN and if
you want in, make sure to register as a volunteer for the 12th edition.